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What is worker's compensation?

Workers' compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides special benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries and illnesses. In general, an employee with a work-related illness or injury can get workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault – the employee, the employer, a co-worker, a customer, or some other third party.  In exchange for these guaranteed benefits, employees usually do not have the right to sue the employer in court for damages for those injuries.

Workers’ compensation benefits and conditions for eligibility differ from state to state. In California, an injured worker may be eligible for one or more of the following:

Medical Benefits
No-cost medical treatment for all medical care related to the injury.
Disability Benefits
Partial replacement of wages lost due to the injury (up to 2/3 with a maximum of $728/week).  If the injured person is able to return to the workforce, he/she will receive temporary disability benefits.  If he/she is unable to return to the workforce, he/she may be eligible for permanent disability benefits.
Death Benefits
If the injury is fatal, the burial expenses may be covered by workers’ compensation (up to $5,000) and payments may be made to relatives for a period of time.
Vocational Rehabilitation
If an injured worker is unable to perform his/her previous job, he/she may receive no-cost career retraining and job assistance (otherwise called “vocational rehabilitation”). 

For persons injured before January 1, 2004, full services will be provided, including the services of a rehabilitation counselor who will help the worker plan the retraining and find employment. 

For persons injured on or after January 1, 2004, this benefit is provided in the form of a retraining voucher worth up to $10,000 (often called a “supplemental job displacement benefit”).  Unlike traditional vocational rehabilitation, the voucher program often requires the injured person to seek out a career, school and job on his/her own.

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational Rehabilitation is a benefit that covers the costs of career training, guidance and job assistance.  If you were injured on or after January 1, 2004, this benefit consists of a voucher that you redeem at the school of your choice for the purpose of retraining.  To qualify, your doctor must determine that you are a Qualified Injured Worker (QIW), which means you are permanently unable to work in the position you had when you were injured.

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